AUBURN — A former volunteer for a booster group for a Lewiston gymnastics organization was ordered by a judge Thursday to repay more than $13,000 she embezzled over five years as the group’s treasurer.
Lisa Tanguay, 46, of Lewiston pleaded guilty Thursday at Androscoggin County Superior Court to felony theft. She was given two years to repay the $13,664.68 she owes the Andy Valley Gymnastics Parents Association. If she does that and complies with other conditions of her plea agreement, including steering clear of the law, she’ll be able to withdraw the felony plea in two years, plead guilty to a misdemeanor theft charge and pay a $1,000 fine.
Andy Valley Gymnastics has a 6,000-square-foot facility at 74 Westminster St. in Lewiston. The organization offers lessons in gymnastics and tumbling to children. The Andy Valley Gymnastics Parents Association raises money for travel, competition fees, safety equipment and other expenses.
Tanguay embezzled more than $18,000, but repaid $5,000 before she appeared in court Thursday.
An Androscoggin County grand jury handed up an indictment last year against Tanguay for a Class B felony theft charge, defined as stealing more than $10,000. But that charge was replaced Thursday with a Class C felony theft charge after prosecutors worked out plea terms with Tanguay. The original charge is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and carries a fine of up to $20,000. The lesser charge agreed to by both parties Thursday is punishable by up to five years in prison and carries a fine of up to $5,000 and as much as two years of probation.
But neither of those penalties will be applied if Tanguay pays back what she owes the group in monthly increments of $595. She also was ordered to stay away from the gymnastics center.
One of the reasons cited by Deputy District Attorney Andrew Robinson for the agreement was Tanguay’s lack of a criminal record.
Robinson told the judge that, had the case gone to trial, a member of the gymnastics group’s board would have testified to discovering some accounting problems. After analyzing spending, he confronted Tanguay about the discrepancies. “She acknowledged that she had misused some of the funds,” Robinson said. She said she believed the difference was just over $5,000 and repaid that amount, Robinson said.
A Lewiston Police Department detective would have testified that Tanguay told him “she was going through hard times and that she was going to lose her house so that she took money from the organization with the intention of repaying it.” But, she told the detective that “things started getting out of control” and she couldn’t pay back the money, Robinson said.
“We honestly are just grateful that we’re able to recover anything,” Coreene Beaumann, the association’s secretary, said after the plea hearing. “Mostly, we’re just grateful that, with this guilty plea, at least it will be on her record and, hopefully, she won’t be able to do this to any other organization.”
Since the discovery, the association has changed its accounting practices, Beaumann said. Checks require two signatures and banking information is sent to a post office box that can only be accessed by certain association members. The group’s banking books are open for inspection to everyone at regular meetings.
“We’re just trying to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” she said. “You trust people. Sometimes it’s misplaced.”